A Profile of Families Cycling on and off Welfare. Has the incidence of cycling changed after PRWORA?


Welfare caseloads have declined dramatically during the 1990s, especially during the years following passage of PRWORA. Undoubtedly, the changes to the welfare system mandated by PRWORA contributed to the nation-wide decrease in welfare receipt. However, the reduction in the welfare rolls began before August 1996, when PRWORA was enacted. Moreover, there are several other possible explanations for the decrease in caseloads. For instance, the growing economy during the mid- to late-90s possibly made it easier for current recipients and those at risk to find relatively high-paying jobs. The expansion of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) may have encouraged many to leave welfare for work or to go to work instead of applying for welfare (Meyer and Rosenbaum, forthcoming). The aging of the population may have resulted in fewer families with children under the age of 18. Further, declines in out-of-wedlock childbearing may have resulted in fewer families being eligible for cash assistance (Sawhill, 2001).

These factors present difficulties for understanding the effects of PRWORA on cycling. All would be expected to possibly increase cycling, and all were present both before and after PRWORA was implemented.(39)

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